Poland puts forward rival candidate to EU’s Tusk

By Stanislaw Waszak, AFP

WARSAW — Poland said Saturday it was proposing a Polish member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the EU presidency to succeed Donald Tusk, whose second term is opposed by the governing right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS). Tusk, who has been president of the European Council since December 2014, had so far been the sole candidate. “The Polish government proposes the candidacy of Jacek Saryusz-Wolski for the presidency of the European Council,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. Tusk, a center-right Polish prime minister from 2007 to 2014, has been sharply at odds with Poland’s rightwing government over a range of issues including changes to state media and the constitution. He became president of the European Council, gathering EU heads of state or government, after a Belgian, Herman van Rompuy.

The Council meets in Brussels next Thursday to discuss whether to give Tusk a second term after his first mandate expires on May 31. The issue may also be raised Monday when French, German, Italian and Spanish leaders meet in Versailles, France, to discuss the future of the EU, French diplomatic sources said. Saryusz-Wolski, 68, an MEP since 2004, is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), gathering Christian Democrat and center-right parties. Within the constellation of Polish politics, he is a member of the opposition Civic Platform, although the centrist group has recently distanced itself from him. After Saturday’s announcement, Civic Platform expelled Saryusz-Wolski from its ranks, which will trigger his exclusion from the EPP group. Tusk’s problems with PiS stem greatly from a vitriolic relationship with party boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski accuses him of bearing “moral responsibility” for the death of his twin brother Lech Kaczynski, who was then president, in an air disaster in 2010 that also killed 95 others. Tusk seems to have support among a majority of European leaders for a second term.

“Tusk is in a very strong position,” a European diplomat said.